These off-duty Jacksonville officers went above and beyond the call of duty as they freed an endangered 9-foot leatherback sea turtle tangled in a crab trap.
"The trap's rope was looped around the sea turtle's neck, and the buoy was still attached to the trap," The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office wrote on Facebook. "Whenever the turtle tried to dive, the rope tightened around its neck."
Lt. Steve Mullen carries out chartered fishing trips while off-duty, and was out with Officer Brad Smith when they noticed the turtle trapped in a 25-pound crab trap, at least two miles off the shore of Hanna Park in Jacksonville, Florida, on Monday.
"We noticed his pectoral flippers and neck were entangled in the crab rope," Lt. Mullen told INSIDE EDITION. "He was almost motionless. He looked like he was dead."
"We have many great white sharks almost exactly where I released that turtle," Lt. Mullen added, "[The leatherback] could have been great white shark lollipop."
After a struggle to free the leatherback, the largest of the turtle species, Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said: "Lt. Steve Mullen was able to disentangle the distressed turtle from the crab trap while keeping the turtle in the water."
Lt. Mullen said he’d been especially worried because leatherback sea turtles are endangered, and even though he is at sea nearly every day, he does not see them often. Bizarrely, he saw the same one again on Tuesday, four miles from where they set it free. He recognized it by an injury on its head, he said.
Back on dry land, the officers were applauded for their kindness.
"So proud of both of them, and truly opportunity of a lifetime!" Officer Smith's wife, Jennifer Smith, posted to Facebook.